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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The next wedge issue

Republicans have a sixth sense that Democrats can only envy: when the smell trouble ahead, they know it's time to whip out a wedge issue and change the subject to the "moral values" they claim to represent.

It's been clear for some time that Republicans have a new issue to add to their pantheon of abortion, gay marriage and wardrobe malfunctions: immigration. Never mind that all of us, except Native-Americans are immigrants. The GOP feels they can win this election by getting rid of "those" people.

The Senate is prepared to discuss a bill that would allow "guest workers" to stay in the country for up to six years. Guest worker is the nice term that masks the reality that these are the people who handle the menial and back-breaking jobs that the rest of the public is alleged not to want. And of course they do it for menial wages, so employers can keep costs down and profits up.

But this is a far cry from the House-passed version, the Wedge Creation Act of 2006. Using xenophobia fostered by 9-11, the Hard Right House is proposing that we not simply do away guest workers. Rather, they would prefer we build a wall along our southern borders and make it a federal crime to live in the country illegally. (Memo to sponsors: have you checked the papers of your household staff?)

Funny thing though -- there are a lot of people who know they are being targeted as scapegoats in an effort to shift attention away from GOP stewardship of the war, the economy and the overall wretched state of the union. And they are making it clear they have no intention to take the blame.

The battle lines here are a bit odd. Bush, McCain and Kennedy are on the same side, as is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The other side is the hardest of the hard right feeding off the xenophobia they created in border states, using images of men in turbans sneaking across the border from Mexico and Canada to blow us up.

Of course their real target is the men, women and children who risk everything to cross the Rio Grande in the hope of a better life that might come from picking crops or cleaning bathrooms.

The cynicism of the anti-immigrant movement is breathtaking Take for example, Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR):

"These are a lot of people who don't vote, can't vote and certainly aren't voting Republican if they do vote," he said.
But instead of matching the cynicism, the other side is responding: with people and a show of outrage that far surpasses anything exhibited against the Iraq War. And there's some equally good rhetoric on this side.

"It's an entirely predictable example of the law of unintended consequences," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, who helped organize the Chicago rally and who said he was shocked by the size of the turnout. "The Republican party made a decision to use illegal immigration as the wedge issue of 2006, and the Mexican community was profoundly offended."
Watching this one play out will be fascinating. The wedge just might wind up heading in the other direction.


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